The 'me' in team, and what it means

Motivation is a primary factor in whether goals are missed, met or exceeded. Motivation determines whether people can't wait for their feet to hit the floor in the morning to get to work - or hit the snooze button and spend another five minutes dreaming of a better life.

And it is motivation that decides whether a team is high-performing or barely meeting goals.

"There is no 'I' in team" is one of the common phrases in team-building seminars. There is a "me" in team, however, and if you're going to build a motivated team that delivers results, you need to focus on the "me."

Anyone who has taken a basic management course has heard of Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

According to Maslow, people are motivated by five needs, which range from biological, such as eating, to higher, self-actualization needs, such as being creative. Each of these needs is focused on the self.

People are not motivated by esoteric ideas, such as increasing shareholder value or building a world-class organization. They are motivated to meet their basic needs - to pay the bills, be happy, be valued.

The key to motivating a team is to translate business goals into personal value. A motivating leader understands this and makes sure the team knows what's in it for them if they meet the goals.

You may find "it's about me" to be a very selfish view. But in reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Here's an example of how it can be about me and remain unselfish:

Let's say I have been assigned a project to implement a new system that will increase productivity and save the company $2.5 million. That's a good corporate goal, but it means increased workload and extended leaves from my family. So what's in it for me?

If the project is successful, I will get a bonus, my merit raise will increase, my career path and job security will be enhanced, and I could get a promotion. Now I'm getting motivated.

To motivate my team, I need to apply the same strategy and tell them what's in it for them. They will be exposed to new technology, a new network with new equipment will be needed, there will be opportunities for training, they will get a bonus and potential salary increase if the project is successful, and they will be able to move into more senior positions. Now they are motivated.

My "me" is motivated, their "me" is motivated and we are a motivated team ready to do whatever is needed to make the project successful - which will ultimately satisfy senior management's "me," as it will be able to meet its goals.

There is no "I" in team, but there is a "me" - a bunch of them, to be precise. A motivated and successful team is made up of individuals who understand what's in it for them.

What do you think? Discuss in the forum on this column.

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